We arrived in Arequipa quite late at night, so we had little chance to see what everyone has been raving about until the following morning. When the sun was up, a short walk revealed the unique splendor of this Peruvian city. Known as the “White City”, many of the buildings in Arequipa are made of Silar a white or pink volcanic stone which creates a stunning downtown.
In addition, the central square is charming with a beautiful fountain, palm trees, plenty of flowers, an impressive cathedral and white cap mountains as a backdrop.
Inside the church we viewed the largest organ in South America that was apparently donated by Belgium in 1854 and interestingly enough was out of tune for 100 years.
On another corner of the square is the intricate Church of the Jesuits. The facade is an interesting mix of Christian and native Peruvian motifs, including condors and pumas. Inside this church they proudly display the Vatican flag, a display only few churches in the world can present.
We were most excited, however, about the large painted mural of the last supper in which Jesus has a cooked guinea pig on his plate, a Peruvian specialty.
One of our favorite attractions was Juanita the Ice Maiden. One of the best preserved mummies in the world, Juanita was a young girl who was killed as an offering to an Inca mountain god over 500 years ago!
She caused a sensation when she was discovered on the Ampato volcano a few hours north of Arequipa in 1995. Several years later they finally deduced that she died from a blunt trauma to the head, which sounds cruel, but she was chosen from birth to be given to the gods, and it’s believed that she was probably near death after days of hiking up to 20,000 ft, the altitude, and the coca tea. We weren’t allowed to take photographs on the tour of the museum or of the frozen Juanita, but they’re available in plenty on the Internet.
We also went on, can you guess? A free walking tour!
We also visited the market which we returned to many times for the cheap bread and avocados.
During the tour we started chatting with an exchange student studying abroad in Lima and her brother who were from Madison, WI! After the tour we went on an epic journey with them to find one of her favorite local treats, queso helado, or cheese ice? I was skeptical but after about an hour of looking we found the lady we were looking for. Delicious.
Only in Peru do they have llamas grazing in the parks.